Blog

February 25th, 2015

YCloud 1_164ou’ve been thinking about signing up for Cloud services. But you’re skeptical, and lingering questions are still bouncing around your mind. Will the Cloud really help my business? Will it increase profits? What is its true value and purpose? If you still have any doubts about this so-called futuristic technology, read on. We’ll clear up what the Cloud is really all about and how it actually benefits your business.

You might say that many businesses sign up for the Cloud because it is touted as a revolutionary technology. And if you’re one of those that has already hopped on the bandwagon, you may actually be among the soon-to-be disappointed.

The reasoning behind this is simple. Businesses who get the most out of the Cloud know which specific problems it will solve for their organization before they even sign up. They know which workflows and tasks can benefit from, and have their efficiency boosted by, Cloud technologies. And they’ve identified how the Cloud can rewire their work processes.

The true purpose of the Cloud

Did you catch the word “efficiency” in the block of text above? If you did, then you’ve identified the true value the Cloud brings to a business. Don’t believe the hype that the Cloud will somehow magically boost your bottom line. Although it has that potential, the Cloud is all about efficiency. It can save you time searching for important documents, updating software, and replacing documents stored on a lost laptop. And it enhances efficiency and collaboration among your staff. What's more, when your business is in the Cloud, your business is everywhere. And that means increased efficiency.

Where businesses go wrong with the Cloud

Besides jumping on the Cloud bandwagon without considering where it can benefit your business, a major reason the Cloud fails for SMBs is because they’ve chosen the wrong vendor. The truth is, some vendors are going to try and oversell you on Cloud services you don’t need. Instead of getting a whole suite of Cloud services such as software plugins, a new Cloud infrastructure and development platforms, maybe your business would benefit much more by just keeping it simple with Google Apps. Sometimes pork and potatoes are going to beat a steak. It really just depends on your objectives.

Secondly, if you’re a small business, make sure the IT provider you’re talking to caters to small businesses. If their target customers are large enterprises, you’re likely going to be overpaying for a service that doesn’t align with your business model.

Does the Cloud really add value to my business?

Have no doubt that the Cloud can improve efficiency if you know where to implement it. A study of 757 SMBs by Exact and the Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research found that one in five SMBs surveyed had implemented Cloud technologies, and 78% of those were operating at levels above industry standards.

In conclusion, is adapting the Cloud going to instantly start making you money? Likely not. But it will impact your business in other valuable ways for the long run. You’ll have increased flexibility, scalability, improved processes and streamlined workflow. Is all this good for business? Well, what do you think?

To figure out how the Cloud can effectively fit into your business model, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 23rd, 2015

SocialMedia_Feb23_AHave you heard that social media can be used to skyrocket your business to unprecedented heights of success? You probably have; people like to talk. But unfortunately, not a lot of this talk is backed up with practical tips on how to go about it. So if you’re tired of waffling in the social media stratosphere, read on for some smart, focused advice that will breathe new life into your social media efforts.

Undoubtedly, the most important strategy to use in your social media plan is...to have a strategy to begin with. Know how much time you can dedicate to social media, block out the hours to focus on it and don’t waste that time checking out friends’ vacation photos or celebrity twitter feeds.

If you don’t have a strategy, you’re going to waste time posting irrelevant updates that won’t engage with your audience. To help you plan an effective social media strategy, here are three crucial tips to get you off on the right foot.

Initially focus on the big three

Most social media experts agree that the three platforms that generate the most business leads, engagement and brand exposure are Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. When you’re getting started, your efforts should be primarily focused on these three. After you’ve gained followings here, then you can start forging paths into YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest amongst others.

Post at prime exposure times

Studies have shown that around lunch and dinner time are ideal posting times (since everyone is uploading photos of their meals). As for which days, many marketers agree your posts are most likely to get noticed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So these are the times to deliver those high-impact messages you’ve been randomly shooting out.

Find the value in your post

On social media, you should always be focused on selling your services, right? Wrong. Only 15% of your posts should concern news about your business and its products. The other 85% should focus on providing fun, valuable and timely content.

When you create a new post, you should ask yourself what’s in it for the customer. What do they get from reading it? Seriously, why is someone going to share your post or talk about your business unless it adds value to their life? Think about the posts you share personally. Do they provide value to your friends and family? We’re guessing the answer is yes.

For more tips on how social media can create buzz for your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 17th, 2015

Productivity_Feb12_AAs a business owner, you've probably looked into ways of maximizing efficiency in your office. And when it comes to increasing productivity, tablets are highly customizable tools that can be tailored to suit the needs of your business. The problem is that many people still regard tablets as content consumption devices, not content creation devices. Some might go so far as to say that tablets are useless for “real work”, but with this attitude they're missing out on a revolutionary tool.

You already know that tablets are flexible in use, portable, and make great devices for entertainment. But you can make your tablet contribute much more to your business practices too; it’s just a matter of selecting the right applications and accessories to get the job done. Here are some strategies to turn your tablet into a powerful productivity tool.

Out with the games

Yes, we use tablets to play games; from typical Angry Birds to the RAM-consuming Assassin’s Creed. But for the sake of your business you need to get rid of all such distractions. Burying the games in folders won’t help when you know they’re there. So if you don’t want to waste your time and are keen to be be more productive, delete the games!

In with the work-friendly apps

The pre-installed apps such as calendar, calculator, email, clock/timer are all useful tools you'll want to have at hand. These are great for quick information checking. But your tablet has the potential to do more than telling you the time or helping with numbers. Just head over to the app store, browse through over a million available apps and take your pick. Here are a few popular ones to get you started:
  • Dropbox - This app lets you store, synchronize, and share files online. You can gain access to your files or share them with your colleagues anywhere, anytime. And what’s more, it’s safe! With Dropbox installed, your tablet becomes a powerful device that enables you to bring up anything you might need for references while working. Alternatives include Google Drive and OneDrive.
  • Skype - Most businesses are starting to take advantage of the features Skype offers. Need to discuss something with your teammates? You can get in touch with them by using the instant messaging or group call features. Skype also allows you to share files with your colleagues with a simple drag-and-drop function.
  • iWork - If you're an iPad aficionado you'll find that iWork boosts your productivity, with three combined apps - Keynote, Numbers and Pages - that can act as your entire office suite whether you're in the office, at home or on the road.

Organize your home screen

You can focus more on work with a well-organized page dedicated solely to productive apps. Make sure all of your work-related apps are on the home screen. The key is to keep the home screen simple and clean. While you can organize it in any way you wish, it’s best to try out a few different schemes before settling on the one you’re most comfortable with.

Get a Bluetooth keyboard

One of the major disadvantages of a tablet is the lack of a physical keyboard. When you need to handle several documents or do a lot of writing, using the tablet’s on-screen keyboard probably isn’t a good idea. Luckily this drawback can be overcome with a portable Bluetooth keyboard. This way you can easily respond to emails or edit documents. So invest in a Bluetooth keyboard to improve your overall tablet experience and productivity. You'll probably find it soon replaces your laptop.

The tablet trend is in town, and many businesses are already benefiting from these devices. But are you ready to take the plunge? Get in touch with us to see how tablets can help your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
February 13th, 2015

BC_164_AIt’s Monday morning, you’re the first one into the office as usual. You take your keys out and unlock the door only to find your office in complete disarray. Documents are thrown everywhere, chairs are knocked over and the worst part - all of your computers are gone. To your right, you notice a smashed window and a trail of keyboards and cables. Then it hits you. You’ve been robbed. Situations like this can happen to businesses of all sizes. The question is, are you prepared? Here’s how you can create a business continuity plan that keeps you open and making profits when the unexpected strikes.

The difference between disaster recovery and business continuity

While it’s easy to overlook the differences between a disaster recovery and business continuity plan, there are actually some key variations you should be aware of.

Disaster recovery is the restoration of business operations and IT infrastructure after a disaster has already occurred. Business continuity, on the other hand, is focused on maintaining business operations and profits throughout a disaster. While disaster recovery is mainly focused on the slice of time immediately following a disaster (how you replace your equipment and restore IT infrastructure asap), business continuity looks at the bigger picture - the continuity of the company as a whole. It ensures you can run your business and maintain profits during the process of recovering from a catastrophe. It generally includes a disaster recovery plan as part of it.

Creating your business continuity plan

The first step in creating your plan is to identify which of your IT assets are vulnerable to disaster. To do this, you need to ask yourself some important questions, starting with what might happen if you were to lose the functionality of a specific asset for a day, a week or even longer. Answering this question will help you identify your most critical IT assets; the ones that are integral to your business operations.

Here are some other important questions to ask when drafting your business continuity plan:

  • What is the purpose of my business continuity plan?
  • What disasters can affect my IT infrastructure?
  •  What are my key business areas?
  • Which different business areas, assets and departments depend on each other?
  • What is the longest amount of time I can go without functionality of IT assets?
Once you can answer these, it’s time to start planning. Write down your thoughts, and then contact an IT provider like us for assistance. We’ve helped countless businesses just like yours prepare themselves in order to remain operational throughout catastrophes. We can also help you identify potential problems that you may not have thought of.

Need help creating your business continuity plan? Contact us today to see how we can help you stay running and turning profits when disaster hits.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 12th, 2015

SocialMedia_Feb12_AWhen it comes to social media, most of us have privacy concerns at the forefront of our minds. Who can see what we post? Who owns the photos we upload? It even comes down to wondering what happens to our social media identities when we die. It is part of the reason for the emergence and subsequent popularity of apps like Snapchat, which allow you to send a photo to a friend and at the same time specify when it will self-destruct. Now, a new entrant to the app marketplace is taking things a step further - it wants to protect your privacy by filling Facebook with pictures of cats.

But there is more to it than that: the team behind social messaging app Wickr aren’t looking to post images of our furry friends just for the fun of it. In fact, the feline factor is just one feature of the app, known as the Wickr Timed Feed. Wickr actually promises to offer greater security and privacy controls than similar apps like Snapchat - but whereas Snapchat simply lets you set your images to self-destruct once they have been seen by the recipient, Wickr takes an alternative approach.

As well as allowing only pre-approved friends to see your photos within your Wickr feed, the app lets you share each photo through Facebook and control which of your friends can see it. So where do the cats come in? Well, when you first share to Facebook, no-one will see your photo - instead, they’ll see a decoy image of a funky-looking cat. However, Facebook users then have the option to click through to Wickr and, if they are one of up to 151 people you have pre-approved to have access to your real photo, it will be unlocked and the cat will disappear - at least, until the photo automatically self-destructs 24 hours later, as do images on your feed in the Wickr app itself.

If it all sounds a bit like security overkill, then that’s probably because it is. Sharing Wickr photos to Facebook also sounds a little cumbersome, and even more so the process for unlocking a cat-guarded photo, and this could have an adverse effect on widespread take-up of the feature. But it does address genuine concerns surrounding the far and often uncontrollable reach of images and information we post online. What’s more, it appears to be a way to prevent Facebook from claiming ownership of the photos we upload - as much a concern for professional photographers and companies using Facebook for marketing purposes, as for individuals using the platform to keep in touch with friends. Wickr claims that, because the cat photo is all that will be publicly visible unless the bona fide picture is unlocked, that will be the only thing to which the social network could claim to have ownership or reproduction rights.

Whether it catches on or not, the emergence of apps like Wickr is telling of the growing pressure for the usability of social media networks to be balanced with protection for their users’ privacy. It acts as a reminder to businesses to be aware both of potential issues with usage rights for corporate images shared online, and of the need to keep consumer concerns about data misuse in mind when designing social media marketing strategies.

To learn more about how to effectively put social media to work for your business, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 10th, 2015

Virtualization_A_164You’ve likely heard of virtualization. It’s the ability to move both hardware and software out of your office to a vendor offsite - therefore freeing up office space and cutting costs. This likely sounds like a dream come true for small businesses, whose overheads need to be kept to a minimum. But with the ability to virtualize almost everything from networks to server hardware and operating systems, you may feel overwhelmed and have no idea where to start. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some tips that’ll take you by the hand into the world of virtualization.

The key to successful virtualization is to not virtualize too much too quickly. Choose one or two items you’d like to test out, and then give it a go. By only focusing on virtualizing a few assets, you’ll be able to accurately measure how much your business is benefiting from virtualization.

Once you’ve decided to make the jump into virtualization, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Don’t virtualize for the sake of virtualizing

If you have 20 PCs running on an older operating system, but they are still producing results you’re happy with, it may be best to save your money and hold off on virtualization until you really have a need for it.

On the other hand, if you’ve been thinking about buying a new server, it may be smarter to consider getting a virtual server instead since the need is already there.

Understand the risks and challenges of virtualizing individual assets

Server, desktop and application vendors have unique and evolving licensing rules concerning virtualization. With vendor licensing audits becoming more and more frequent, you may be in for a major financial penalty if you’re not following the rules.

It’s been reported that one company saved $4 million in hardware expenses through virtualization. However, they lost $52 million for not remaining in compliance with the software licenses.

Try virtualizing more than one asset

If you start out only virtualizing your server and it doesn’t show immediate benefits, that doesn’t mean you should just give up on virtualization completely. The fact of the matter is that virtualization does save businesses millions of dollars every year in IT expenses, giving them a productivity boost in the process.

You can virtualize many physical assets of your business besides servers. This includes applications, laptop hardware, operating systems and more. All the virtualization process does is deliver these assets to you via the internet instead of having the physical product in your office. So if the server virtualization doesn’t work for you, maybe virtualizing another asset will.

Or it could simply be that your IT service provider is the real problem. Maybe you haven’t found the right virtualization vendor that works best for your business. The only way you’ll ever find out is if you don’t give up the first time you encounter a failure.

For more information about virtualization and how to effectively integrate it into your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 6th, 2015

BusinessValue_Feb6_AIn today’s society of instant gratification, people have short attention spans. They want to have everything accessible at their fingertips via smartphones and tablets. For businesses with an online presence, this is either a new opportunity - or a missed one. Establishing mobile strategies to target smartphone addicts can give you an edge over competitors who are not going mobile. Here are some mobile marketing tips that could help your business to fly high.

Use QR codes

As far as mobile marketing tools go, QR coding is among one of the most powerful. With QR codes you can set up announcements about special events, coupons, newsletters, updates on your latest products, etc. Your potential customers can simply scan the QR code with their mobile devices and see what you have to offer.

The real benefit of QR codes is they can be put virtually anywhere to lead people anywhere online. Imagine putting a QR code on a T-shirt and having it lead to an online coupon for special deals. While the possibilities for placing QR codes are endless, it’s probably not very useful to put them somewhere that doesn’t make sense, like on a street billboard; people can’t scan your QR code while they’re driving.

Buy Facebook mobile ads

Facebook currently has over 700 million active mobile users. Even if that number’s not increasing at the moment, it’s still huge. Many businesses that are competing online have a Facebook page and advertising plans already. But with the majority of mobile visitors on Facebook, all your content and ads should be easy to read and engage with.

Facebook mobile ads display better than normal ads on the right column on Facebook’s news feed. If you don’t make use of this feature, you might be missing out on a large audience.

Make your website responsive

Back in the old days all websites were static, meaning that content was fixed unless you edited the HTML files. Later came the dynamic website, where content was changeable once you refreshed a web page. Now we have responsive websites, which conveniently adjust themselves to different browser sizes or a mobile device’s screen size.

Responsive websites are the future of the web. Imagine how high the bounce rate is likely to be if a potential buyer visits your website on a mobile device, scrolls around to read your content with difficulty, gives it up as a bad job and finds your competitor’s website that is mobile-friendly. That’s why your business website is better off on a responsive design.

Mobilize your E-mail

There are many up and coming marketing tools, but email is still one of the best ways to get great results for businesses. As with Facebook, most people check their emails on a smartphone or tablet. Make sure your message reads well on mobile devices, or your customers might ignore and delete it or, even worse, unsubscribe from future emails.

There are plenty of mobile marketing tools out there. Before implementing them get in touch with us to find the best solution that works for your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 5th, 2015

VoIPGeneral_Feb05_AOver the past few years VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) has become a growing trend for most businesses due to its advantages regarding costs, speed, and flexibility. Companies have adopted VoIP when conducting interviews or holding online conferences. Regardless of its efficiency, however, VoIP is still susceptible to security breaches and data theft. An attacker can record business conversations and have them decrypted to obtain crucial business or personal information. Read on to find out more about precautions you can take to protect your VoIP system from unwanted audiences.

Encryptions and Passwords

In most cases your VoIP system might not be using any encryption to protect the conversation from prying eyes and ears. It is prudent to set up encryption that will ensure privacy and repel third parties from eavesdropping on your calls. An attacker would have to break encryptions in order to listen in.

Keep in mind that strong passwords will decrease the risk of the call being intercepted. Once you start using VoIP, immediately change the default password to a strong one. For security purposes, if you’re an administrator you should never use default passwords.

Review your Hosted Services

Many VoIP service applications run on commercial server operating systems from an external party. Ask the host provider about which services are enabled and which are disabled. You should only enable the ones you need. Treat this with the same care as you would normally devote to encryptions and password security.

VoIP Firewalls and Security Layers

Deploying a firewall specially designed for VoIP traffic can help protect your system. The firewall limits types of traffic and closes the session once the call disconnects, therefore shutting down the gates to possible abuses. It also identifies unusual calling patterns and watches out for signs of attack.

But using a firewall alone is not enough. Applying security layers around the server is a way to improve authentication and add protection when users exchange messages. Consider adding endpoint security as an additional layer for authorization by blocking devices until they pass security checks.

Implement Strict Security with Users

Security matters in the workplace, and employees shouldn’t take it lightly. Establish ground rules when using VoIP. Assign each user with appropriate access in a restrictive manner, depending on their needs. Ask users to report any abnormal signs of threats. Also, be on the lookout for strange activities within your VoIP system and try to familiarize users with the techniques data thieves use to attack VoIP connections.

Concerned about your VoIP security status? Get in touch with us and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
January 30th, 2015

Productivity_Jan29_ASmall to medium size businesses and startups have always had to squeeze the most they can out of a small team. But with every business trying to gain a foothold in the market and costs on the rise, productivity is more important than ever. Doing more with less is not an option anymore, it’s a necessity. It’s no wonder businesses are looking towards the latest technology to help carry the load. Below are four ways technology can help you make better use of your most valuable resource of all: your employees.

Work together from anywhere

With the onset of Cloud technology, it’s now possible for your employees to work easily from anywhere - be it Bangkok, Belize or Boston. With Cloud-based suite products, employees can log on from remote locations and access company files. All they need is a web-enabled device.

Cloud-based technology also makes it easier than ever for your staff to collaborate. While one employee is in a coffee shop in Vancouver and another is at a desktop in your office, they can both be editing the same document at the same time. This makes it easy for your staff to remain on the same page, both literally and metaphorically, which in turn boosts both productivity and profits.

While many SMBs use public Cloud applications like Google Drive, Dropbox and Evernote, private pro-level options are available, which come with more security and more features.

Keep all your data in the Cloud

The fact is that searching through spreadsheets for information stored in bloated data sets can be a huge waste of time. By having all your data in the Cloud, all your information will be in one place. So when you’re looking for that critical client receipt for your taxes, you’ll know where it is immediately.

Thanks to its remote access and collaboration possibilities, the Cloud also gives you and your staff easy access to all of your data wherever in the world you are.

Identify bottlenecks and upgrade your technology

Facing the facts about your current technology is key to increasing productivity. Yes we know you love your tablet from way back in 2008. You even named her Susie, after your niece, because they’re both so darn creative. But let’s face it, Susie is old now and is slowing down your business. She’s served you well, but it’s time to upgrade.

And desktops aren’t the only technology that can slow you down. There are also unreliable internet connections, obsolete software and outdated email providers. The list goes on…

The solution is to take a careful inventory of your current IT technology and see what’s keeping your business from reaching its true productivity potential. After you have your list, update your technology accordingly. Then create a plan to regularly upgrade your IT resources, so your employees are never being slowed down.

Outsource your IT

As the old saying goes, ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Whether you have a part-time contractor or a fully-staffed IT department, the mere presence of tech staff onsite in your workplace can be a distraction. When you’re focusing on sales or setting up meetings with potential clients, a knock at your door from your IT colleague - because he or she has just discovered a glitch in your system - can take you out of the flow of the task at hand.

On the other hand, outsourced IT departments are proactive in preventing technical issues from popping up in the first place. They’ll fix problems without you even knowing they existed, and without distracting you from your core work. All of which means a great boost to your day-to-day productivity - and therefore profitability.

Want to know more ways IT can enhance your company’s productivity? Contact us today to learn how.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
January 22nd, 2015

socialmedia_Jan20_ASocial media has been increasing in popularity amongst business owners more than ever before. From LinkedIn to Twitter and Facebook, social media has enhanced ways in which businesses communicate with one another, leading to quicker connections and even stronger relationships. Is it time you took a look at different ways social media can help drive your business development?

In most cases, a business development manager already has an idea of the kind of company with which to partner. Their next step is to contact that company via a phone call or email. However, this can be an unreliable way to reach out, especially when your potential partner has never heard of you. Social media speeds up this process by identifying the best person to contact, as well as determining if you have any mutual connections.

Simply put, social media lets you understand the background of different companies and gives you an idea of the different players involved, before you even engage in a dialogue. With this in mind, let’s take a look at four ways you can utilize information available on social media to enhance your business development success.

  1. Social media is an extra pair of eyes Social media allows you to see first-hand what potential partners, competitors, and customers are doing, which is a major asset when it comes to your business development and performance. This can also reveal business-relationship possibilities or even warn where it is best to stay away. It’s crucial to position yourself and your company as industry experts by sharing mind-blowing content as well as highlighting recent successes.
  2. There’s no universal message in social media The way people behave and connect across different social media platforms varies, therefore it is important to adjust accordingly. For instance, you might use Twitter to promote ongoing marketing campaigns, share content, and direct customer service requests. You may use Facebook for larger marketing initiatives, such as showcasing a company’s culture and resources. It’s important to remember that there’s no universal rule to utilizing social media and that it is beneficial to be flexible. Think about what your individual goals are and work out which social media platform is the best avenue to explore.
  3. Leverage employee relationships If you’re looking to connect with an individual in a specific company, make it a habit to check and see if anyone in your company has a pre-existing relationship with that person. Social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn make it fairly easy to spot mutual connections, so it is a good idea to get into the habit of checking. Whether you ask your colleague to help make an introduction or to arrange a meeting, a mutual connection gives you the competitive edge in effective business development.
  4. Use social media as a touchpoint Social media is not only essential to business development, but also complements other more traditional practices, such as when you’ve sent an email or voicemail to a business prospect that has gone unanswered. It’s understandable that people get so busy they can delay, forget or pass over an inquiry, but instead of passively waiting for a reply, why not make it standard practice to follow up separately via LinkedIn or other social media platforms? This way you can build additional opportunities with potential partners, increase the likelihood of a response, and even forge a future business relationship.
The fundamentals of business development are strong relationships with a partner or companies with a good reputation, who will have a positive impact on your business, such as marketing an initiative collaboratively. Social media can get this whole process started, so the next time you’re looking to contact a business prospect or potential partner, start by visiting their social media channels to get the heads up to help you in your quest.

Looking to learn more about the benefits of social media in business? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media